I am a Bulls' Fan, and I can't help but laugh at the irony of the "player suspension" levied against Joakim Noah for undermining the team regarding a dispute with an assistant coach. Reportedly, Ben Wallace, along with Adrian Griffin, solicited the vote among teammates regarding further action against Noah. Ben Wallace! B-e-n W-a-l-l-a-c-e! The same Ben Wallace who, along with several teammates, quit on Scott Skiles and ultimately cost him his job; the same Ben Wallace who was petty and small over a headband; the same Ben Wallace who apparently can't find 16 million reasons why he should perform and behave at his best every game. Ben Wallace serving under a disciplinary board capacity is like allowing Brittany Spears to monitor an IQ Test. -- Tom Perrone, Crystal Lake
Tweedledum and Tweedledee, eh? In almost every way, this season seems to have become Alice and the looking glass. Everything seems backward. We're officially reading the standings from the bottom up from now on. There does appear to be a gentle irony there in Ben being involved. I don't fully understand why the players did that. It's something you don't see very often as teammates tend to protect one another. That Wallace was involved was equally curious in that he's backed off what leadership role he could have -- like when he declined being one of the captains early in the season. I think I saw him reading "Jabberwocky" in the locker room.
So our "veteran" players finally decide to show some leadership when the season is almost completely gone ... and they do so by punishing the one guy on the roster who actually gives a crap?! If you ask me, Noah's response is the only appropriate one to the lack of effort and passion this team has displayed to this point. He should ask the rest of the team to sit out a game for their lack of intensity and apathetic approach to the season. -- Tim, St. Louis, Mo.
I take it you weren't part of the unanimous vote.
Just out of curiosity: How does someone who was not a professional athlete become General Manager of a professional sports team? Would you recommend an MBA degree for that? -- Adi, Arlington, Va.
It's what I've been trying to find out. If MBA is Master of Basketball Adventures. The best way is to get to know an owner. The range generally is from basketball lifers who worked their way up through scouting to former big time players. What's usually missing is the business knowledge of how to make a deal, negotiate a contract, etc. There usually is someone on staff to do that. I can't say there's a perfect qualification, other than mine, and here I am just answering your questions. Where is that getting me?
If the league will just limit the roster to perhaps 10 active players in a basketball team roster, the 48 minutes can be spread out more effectively. The talent is well oiled and not wasted on the bench, not to mention the money down the drain for unutilized talent every night. This is also morale-lifting. There's a chance each player will get in the game. -- Ruben I, Plainfield
You sound like an owner. Owners always want to reduce the size of the roster because it saves money; players' representatives reject it because it costs jobs and then commissions for agents. Follow the money. That's not likely to happen, though a 15-player roster in the NBA is absolutely unnecessary. That's a fight to the death for the players' union, and the NBA has bigger issues to contest, like long-term contracts, which hurt the league more than anything. It is perhaps the great failure of David Stern's tenure. With the chance to make a bold move and reduce contract lengths to three or four years to give teams flexibility, Stern blinked. He would have had to lock out the players, and with hockey on lockout, he didn't want the bad publicity. It's something killing a lot of franchises.
I think our season will parallel Obama's campaign. Early he had a lull, but he never was out, and he always had the ingredients necessary to win: Money, organization, and an eloquence to inspire. The Bulls started out slow because of their disdain for Skiles, but they have the defense, multiple scoring options (Gordon, Deng, Noce, and surprisingly Joe Smith ( ... and I mean his post presence), and heart, particularly in Thabo and Tyrus. -- Joe, Chicago
I like Obama's chances more.
Why can't Hinrich or Gordon post up on smaller guards? In the San Antonio game, we could have slowed Tony Parker by making him play more defense and possibly get into foul trouble. -- Andrew Tran, Chicago
Because they can't. It's not an easy thing to do and not part of their games. Plus, they're small. I've seen it done, like when Don Nelson posted Tim Hardaway. But you need an inventive, imaginative coach who doesn't worry about getting fired or being embarrassed (there aren't many) and players who have the patience and strength. Gordon is strong but doesn't approach the game that way. Plus, if you were good at posting up at guard, they'd switch on you and Parker probably wouldn't be defending.
I know trades are easier said than done but Steve Kerr said he is looking for interior defense for the Suns and Ben Wallace has shown he can still play if he wants to. I know the Suns don't want to trade Shawn Marion but can't afford to keep him. I know Kerr is smarter than Kevin McHale but what about a trade involving those two players and maybe taking on Marcus Banks and throwing in B.G. or Tyrus and a future draft pick? -- JayMan, Salt Lake City
The Suns, even with an unsteady season at times, are going for it. Ben Wallace doesn't appear to be. Plus, when you play for the Suns you need to be a scorer. There may not be a worse team for Wallace than the Suns, and since he is no threat, Amare Stoudemire would see even more defensive pressure. Next!
Bet you wish you had dug up this little tidbit. Did you know that Demetris Nichols was drafted with the pick the Bulls sent to Portland with the rights to LaMarcus Aldridge for, of course, Tyrus Thomas and Victor Khryapa? -- Patrick, New York
Who's Demetris Nichols?
How about Jackie Butler for a low post option? I recall him playing well down low for the Knicks and the Spurs did sign him. Looks like he's out of the league right now. -- Paul, Denver
And for good reason. I know the Knicks loss was tough. I probably got more angry, disheartened mail after that one than any in the last few years. Butler was Larry Brown's joke on old buddy Gregg Popovich, who found out Butler was so bad (Brown said to sign him), he had to give up Luis Scola just to get rid of Butler's contract. I think you recall him playing down like a load.
Everyone complains that the Bulls have no superstar. I disagree; I think they have a potential superstar under their noses: A Superstar Defense. They just have to utilize it and ride it. They will stand out because there are no more than a handful of teams that play good defense. So, I would ride with this starting lineup: Ben Wallace (who has done fine jobs on Tim Duncan, Brad Miller, etc.); Tyrus Thomas at PF; Nocioni at SF (because he stays under opponents' skins); Sefolosha at SG (he's the big guard the Bulls need) and Duhon at PG (he's the best defender among Bulls' PGs). -- James Pringle, Chicago
It better be a great defense because that lineup might not score 40 points. But I believe changes are coming. Sefolosha has started to play more and I think he eventually replaces Duhon in the starting lineup and we start to see that big guard and whether he can provide some of that. I don't know what it takes to get to Wallace. We've seen him be a great defender. Maybe he just doesn't have it anymore like Shaq.
What's the best play for the Bulls at the end of the game, with the clock winding down? Other than giving Ben Gordon the ball and letting him over-dribble, why don't they draw up more imaginative plays, like lobbing to Thomas, or Luol driving, or Hinrich coming off a screen? -- Mike, Pacific Grove, Cal.
The hope is Thomas isn't in the game. You rarely see a lob to end a game. But I would like to see Hinrich or Deng get a shot at such shots. Staying closer in games will help.
You mentioned that you haven't got along with Thomas. ("I've been tough on Thomas, less for his play -- Skiles took care of that for us -- than for his attitude toward people around the team.") I had picked up on that last year. It got me wondering about your thoughts regarding the value of reporters being able to provide "the inside information" versus the ability to provide assessments of their "on court" play without being colored by their "off court" personality. I know you and every other reporter will say they don't let "off court" things interfere with their evaluations and reporting. Do you think that's really possible? As a former supervisor of employees, I would never admit to evaluating on anything but performance. Using some 20-20 hindsight, I now must admit the employees who were philosophically in tune with me did, by my evaluation, perform better than those who rubbed me the wrong way. I'm forced to wonder -- Was the performance really better or did my feelings about the person influence my judgment? I can't see how reporters can stay away from the same thing. -- Roy Lobenhofer, Mt. Prospect
It's a good point. There is no such thing as objectivity. There has never been an objective reporter because people are subjective. You try to be as fair as you can. It's always why I counsel players that they'll get the benefit of the doubt if they cooperate with reporters. (If they ever ask. Oh, that's right, they don't.) It's only natural. With Thomas, I was tough on him in columns last season, less because of the way he treated me than the way I saw him treat others. Perhaps it's none of my business, but like in the presidential campaigns, character matters. I tend to like an argument or discussion, but feel if I make my point no matter what someone else does, we move on from there. It's difficult for most people, I know. It's impossible to feel the same way about someone who treats you poorly or you have a poor view of -- especially compared with say, a Magic Johnson, who may have been the most cooperative, friendly, accommodating athlete ever. But perhaps that's also part of the deal. You deserve better treatment when you display that kind of character. But no matter how you may feel about someone, if they perform, the fans couldn't give a crap how you feel and you lose credibility if, for personal reasons, you condemn someone who is performing. Tyrus hasn't performed, so his attitude just has made it more difficult for him. I occasionally speak at the NBA rookie orientation. My message is simple: You have the best job in the world and this will be the best time in your life. You'll never want to leave and all the best return. Don't spoil it by being angry, mean or unhappy with media. You can't be loved by everyone, so just have fun with it. Steve Kerr always used to tell me he never read anything anyone wrote or listened to what media said on radio or TV, so when he'd see them he would never be angry. Few guys smiled more with less overall talent.
Why don't the Bulls run like the Suns? The Bulls are young and athletic and suited for wide-open offense. -- Bill Maurer, Mesa, Ariz.
You can't run without rebounding, for one thing. The Bulls are a decent rebounding team, but teams get back so well and sag to guard the lane in the pros and it's difficult to do. You've got to defend first to force misses, rebound them and then run out. The Bulls guards don't throw ahead well enough and they don't have great finishers in their small guards. Ask Rick Pitino how difficult it is to get a team to play this way. Coaches talk about it all the time, but there are only a few that trust their players to open the game like that. The Bulls don't quite have the Steve Nash-style decision-makers for it as well.
The Bulls are who we thought they were. A bunch of role players. You said in previous years, the Bulls took on the persona of their head coach, Skiles. He was the alpha dog in the locker room. Who is that now? -- Denny Green, Chicago
Noah? That is a serious issue they face and why they'll have to make some changes. It's like following Don Nelson, Larry Brown or Hubie Brown. Those guys have teams constructed to the way they coach and only they can really coach those teams that way. You don't have to blow things up, but you need to make changes. This team was built to fit Skiles and it was working nicely. A year ago Chicagoans generally loved this team and didn't want to see many changes. Skiles was the leader. Now they have none, no matter how many team meetings they hold. It's something they have to look for, though many teams don't have such leaders. It's a rare quality.
I know a lot of Bulls fans don't like (Eddy) Curry and think trading him was the right thing to do, but I still think the '04-'05 Bulls were the best team since the end of the Jordan era. If Curry and Deng were not hurt during the playoffs, I think they would've beaten Washington and maybe advanced to the semifinals. If you look back, that team had Hinrich, Gordon, Deng, Nocioni, Chandler, and Curry. I think we should've kept that nucleus and we would be better today than we are now. -- Eddie, Aurora
Well, the Bulls did think Curry might have a heart attack. It never would have worked because Curry and Chandler were beginning to regress badly under Skiles. It's not like Curry has changed much. I don't think Chandler would have gotten through last season. He was practically in tears and an emotional wreck almost every day two years ago. It was he or Skiles and at the time it seemed the Bulls made the right choice. I didn't get any mail then objecting to letting either go.
What are the realistic chances that the Bulls can get Elton Brand in the off-season via sign-and-trade? While leaving enough pieces to go after other players? -- Jack, Chicago
None. Elton has one more season at $16.4 million and he's not about to opt out after missing all season with an injury. The Clippers tend not to make such moves as Corey Maggette keeps saying he'll leave and they won't trade him and say they'll sign him. The Clippers generally let players leave and save the money if they can't resign their players.
Sam, if you want Pau (Gasol) so bad, we will be glad to send him to you for Noah, Nocioni, and a couple of Chicago hot dogs. -- Andy, Germantown, Tenn.
Done. The teams are not seriously talking now, I've been told, but I believe talks will heat up when it gets closer to the trade deadline. They probably can't include Nocioni because of his base year status, but I expect the Bulls to be among several teams to make an offer. What remains unclear is what the Grizzlies want to do, if anything, with Gasol.
I'm a Chicago transplant in Los Angeles enjoying the weather and Phil Jackson's mastery of the NBA game. I like what I see with (Jim) Boylan so far, better rotations and communication skills with the media and players. I'm waiting to see this starting lineup: Hinrich, Deng, Thomas, Smith, Wallace. -- Vincent Antosz, Los Angeles
He certainly is trying to accommodate the players and get the job. We'll see if it works. I believe he'll eventually go bigger in the backcourt, but I'm not sure with whom.
I like what Joe Smith brings to the table, but I think the Bulls need to capitalize on it. Wouldn't this be the best time to trade Smith while his trade value seems like it might have increased? Following the debacle against the Knicks, isn't it clear it's time to develop some of the younger players? -- James, Vernon Hills
You sound like me. Good game? Let's move him. The Bulls haven't given up yet and shouldn't in the East. Rebuilding and playing kids sounds good, but it's painful to watch and if you recall 2000-2005 in Chicago, losing doesn't teach much.
So, you say the Lakers are trying to move clumsy Kwame (Brown) out, but instead, can't they just let Brown go at the end of the season, and try signing Maggette?
It doesn't work that way anymore. There used to be a "slot" system in the NBA where you could put a player in a slot if you lost a player. That's long gone and the Lakers still wouldn't be under the cap if they don't re-sign Brown. They're trying now for a sign-and-trade to get someone for Brown's expiring contract, which is attractive to many teams losing money. The Clippers don't seem interested, and certainly won't help the Lakers.
I'm a New Yorker who happens to be a Bulls fan and I have had the pleasure the last few years, unlike my fellow New Yorkers, to watch good basketball. However lately I've become like a lot of the people I see every day and I'm dreading my basketball team. The loss to the Knicks was what I have to believe to be the low point of our season. I watched my Bulls play 4 against 5 in the 4th quarter and it made me just plain sick. Ben Gordon took some bad shots but that was only because whoever it was that was guarding Ben Wallace was able to sag off of Wallace and assisted with the double-teaming of Gordon. I watched Ben Wallace pass up multiple shots no more than 5 to 8 feet from the basket. -- Freypell Fabien, New York
Interim coach Boylan is trying a risky strategy, it seems. He was there, so he knows players, especially Wallace, quit on Skiles. Wallace hated being taken out of games late because the team was trailing or had to shoot free throws. Boylan has been playing Wallace then with the idea that he'll get more from Wallace to make up for not doing the offense/defense switches at the end. We'll see if it works. Not many coaches have succeeded putting their fate in Wallace's hands. If he can revive Wallace, he gets coach of the year, though.
What do you think about the Bulls possibly signing Penny Hardaway? I know they don't have a roster spot for him right now and I know he's not the same player but he can add some length in the backcourt and his knowledge and experience should help. -- Warren Hunte, Newark, Del.
As L'il Penny would say, "Fool!"
I think the Lakers would be better off trading Lamar Odom and whatever pieces to work for Tyrus Thomas and Ben Wallace. The Lakers get Ben at the power forward to provide the defense and experience to win in the playoffs, and the showtime in Tyrus off the bench with Kobe getting all the defensive attention, throwing lobs to Tyrus all day. Bulls get a legitimate post presence who can shoot it and pass it and handle it at the same time and open up space to play Shake it up! -- Kenny, Berkeley, Calif.
I like Odom in the third option role, where he seems more comfortable. I'd make that trade if I were the Bulls (even if you need some other salaries to match); I doubt the Lakers would as they've really played well and are one of the big stories of this season with a legit chance to get to the Finals.
Sam, how about this trade Thabo Sefolosha & Tyrus Thomas for Brandan Wright & Marco Belinelli? -- Tina, Lake Geneva, Wis.
I like Wright's potential. Nelson isn't about to play him, but after giving up Jason Richardson for him, GM Chris Mullin isn't about to get rid of Wright quickly. Mullin knows Nellie could head back to Maui at any time.
The coach of the Miami Heat for the '08-'09 season will be Scott Skiles. -- Phil Holmes, Palatine
I know Riley thinks highly of Skiles and Skiles has proven himself a turnaround guy. Would it work with vets like Shaq and Wade? Riley keeps saying he'll go inside for his eventual successor, which could be by All-Star break.
Do the Bulls have the pieces to obtain a player like Vince Carter to fill their need at big guard? He's a proven scorer, a strong finisher around the basket and a "foul hunter" that can get the line. -- Stan, Burnham
I doubt it, though the talk around the NBA now is the Nets are more likely to try to move Carter than Jason Kidd.
I don't understand all the hostility going towards Ben Wallace. The fact that he has been considered a "bust" seems way over the edge. Last season he played great against Shaq and the Heat and was a large reason why the Bulls swept that series. He played well against the Pistons even though the Bulls lost the series. He was brought in for his defense and to help get the Bulls further in the playoffs (not win a championship that year, as has been commonly thought). I have seen almost every game this year and he continues to play well, especially on the big guys. He disrupts a lot of plays and holds down many of the bigs on other teams when he guards them on defense as opposed to roaming. I know he was given a huge contract and seems to be the scapegoat for the Bulls' shortcomings, but everybody needs to realize that we would be in much worse shape at his position if he didn't come to Chicago (Chandler's time was done here.) -- Tom Goodman, Chicago
Ah, some perspective. You must not listen to talk radio. This was the argument to get Wallace and it made sense at the time. Chandler, as I said, was a basket case by then and the idea was not only to weaken the Pistons but have someone to stand up to Shaq, which Wallace did in the 2004 Finals impressively. The frustration with Wallace stems in part from the lack of success, though Wallace hardly helped himself sitting out those games when he apparently wasn't hurt before Skiles was fired. Everyone knows his offensive flaws and fans have a hard time separating money earned from production. Once a guy gets paid, I always recommend that people forget that. Ben works better on a successful team with his intangible play. Intangibles don't do much when you are down 30.
Before Boylan took over for Skiles, I was listening to Chicago sports radio and they were saying they heard rumors of Ditka taking the head coaching job for the Bulls. Can you shed any light on this? -- Lundy Beepo, Roselle
Only that you get what you deserve listening to talk radio. Actually, even for talk radio I find it hard to believe anyone seriously said that. Perhaps they really said Ditka would be dead before he'd coach the Bulls. Though I would like to hear a Ben Wallace-Ditka meeting. I can see McMahon being Wallace's headband coach.
Is it time for the Bulls to pull the plug on this team? I love what Pax was trying to do, but it just didn't work out like we all hoped for. -- Tod, Indianapolis
What often gets overlooked is most of the things Paxson did were right. The atmosphere around the team changed and became more professional, the work ethic was taken seriously. They advanced every season and became a serious NBA team. The first step was to leave joke status, which they did. For now, this is a hiccup.
I think the knock against Pau Gasol is ridiculous ... that he hasn't taken a team to the playoffs ... even a player as great as D-Wade can't do it alone ... look at KG! Do you feel that we will finally pull the trigger and get some help? -- Kimberly, Iowa
Agreed, it takes a village. That's my Democrat equal time provision from above. The point with Pau is less what he can't do than if you give up too much and make it a parallel deal. Everyone around the NBA says they hear the Bulls trying to make a move. But it will take someone wanting some of their young players and their value isn't that high now.
Does Tyrus have any chance of becoming a star with his current demeanor? I had the opportunity to watch a game from behind the Bulls bench and as much as I love his athleticism and want to like him, I feel that he's a cocky punk. During pre-game warmups he was the only one who goofed around the entire time and never seemed to get into game mode. Later, I watched a conversation he had with a ref who called him for a foul and he completely disrespected him, rolling his eyes at him while walking backwards staring him down. The players have said nice things about him maturing this year but has he? -- Ashley, Chicago
We're still using the "more time to grow up thing" with Tyrus. That's part of what Skiles meant when he said "you don't see what we see." You are right. His body language and demeanor often undermine the view of him. I can't fully understand the anger he seems to have. As I've said, if channeled right, it could help. Sometimes an attitude like that in games makes for a better competitor. As good a guy as Jordan was, he wasn't so nice to opponents. It's doubtful he'll become a great player, but he can be a very good player and a starter, but as you see he still has some growing to do.
When you compare the Bulls roster with other team rosters, why would anyone think that they were better than a lower rung team in the NBA? They can only match up with a few teams. -- Charles Sexton, Mechanicsburg
We knew it before, but believed in them because they were in the East and competed so hard every game. They're still in the East, fortunately, but that playing edge isn't the same. Everyone saw they were regularly beating teams who had more talent the last few seasons. It's why the team was so beloved. It's caught up with them, and that, along with the lack of a star (which the Bulls hoped to have by now), is taking a big toll.
Sam, why hasn't either Bulls coach this year tried starting Noah at center alongside Wallace at PF? Noah is a tremendous passer and creates well for our shooters and other bigs. Plus this upgrades our D at the beginning of games. Noah is much more talented defensively than Smith. -- Corey Brookhouzen, Brookfield
Assuming the players haven't suspended him, right? They still count the points at the end of the game and between he and Wallace, they might not score two on zero in an empty gym.
Do you think the Bulls and Eddy Curry are sorry that he didn't take that blood test? The Bulls still haven't replaced his scoring and the New York media has been brutal on the guy. -- Jim Harlan, Chicago
I don't think there's a day the Bulls wish they had Curry. I think they are sorry he didn't take the test because they do like him and hope he doesn't have medical problems. The interesting story is he was playing so well before that heart episode, they had a contract ready to go for him after the season. I can't imagine it would have worked long with Skiles. One of the New York speculations is Skiles will replace Isiah. Now that would be interesting.
Why do the Bulls have Adrian Griffin on the playing roster just for his leadership? Make him an assistant where he can use his leadership qualities and bring in someone else who might actually play some minutes. -- Adrian Gissara, Melbourne, Australia
My guess is he's headed that way. He is a popular player and has a good story of working to get to the NBA without obvious talent, but as the old saying goes, you can't lead from the bench.
Any chance the Bulls trade for (Mehmet) Okur? The Jazz could play AK at the 4 and Boozer at center. -- Justin, Chicago
The Jazz missed Okur when he was out and he proved a valuable weapon for them with his outside shot at his size. I don't see what the Bulls have that would make sense for the Jazz. No, would be the answer.
I have read that the Bulls are interested in Tracy McGrady. What do you think of the idea? I would say it's not a good idea. Besides all of his injury issues, I have read that he has actually been thinking about retirement within the next couple of years. -- Tim Grisham, Arlington, Va.
It's mostly media speculation for now. He is a star, of sorts, though as you note, he cannot be counted upon. I doubt the Bulls would head in that direction and I assume the Rockets, if they do trade him, would want an All-Star or high level players in return.
After the home loss to the Knicks, Jim Boylan said he made coaching errors. Is this the coach owning up to his own shortcomings, or is he trying to take the pressure off of the players? It appears to me that he is trying to ease the pressure on the players and show them that he can be accountable as well as them. -- Peter Hopson, Salamander Bay, Australia
That was sort of a tempest in a teapot dome, as William Safire once wrote about Watergate. Ooops. Boylan is trying to be the anti-Skiles as much as possible and not blame players and generally be the good guy. I thought it was an innocent remark and not a self-evaluation. I thought Boylan overreacted to the criticism. The second-guessing is part of the job he's not accustomed to.
I would consider building a team around Noah. There may be a lot that I don't know, but, boy, I like his style. I am tempted to think that he took out on the coach what he could not take out on his teammates. And he seems to have done so in a couple of previous incidents. Am I wrong, or is Noah a keeper? -- Richard Lachmann, Honolulu
I know you don't mean Noah being the ark of the offense. Geez, even I was offended by that pun. He's clearly a bit of a flake and has little idea what it takes to be a professional. But I believe he'll be a fine role-playing big man. That's not an insult, because he'll help a team. Whether it's the Bulls remains uncertain.
Do you know of any truth to the rumored trade of Ben Wallace, Tyrus, and a second-round pick to Houston for T-Mac?? -- Jonathon Wormsley, Boulder, Colo.
None. Zero. Zip. Nada. Negatory, na na hey hey, not goodbye yet.
With the Bulls still looking for a low post scorer who can give them 12 and 10 every night and a two guard who can actually guard somebody, why isn't Paxson seriously considering going after Nick Collison and Mickael Pietrus? Neither of those players are getting the minutes they deserve on their current teams and both would be upgrades for us, if we don't have to get rid of Gordon. -- Jeremy, Aurora
Pietrus can be traded only with his approval this season and he says he'll give it if he's guaranteed 35 minutes and starting. Doubtful with the Bulls. Collison is base year and almost impossible to trade.
Do the Bulls still have an option of switching picks with the Knicks? If that's the case, next season is looking brighter already. -- Mario, Chicago
There's a lot of confusion with the Knicks, and if the Bulls say they have it again, maybe they won't remember and will allow the Bulls to take the pick. And maybe if Isiah does get fired, he won't tell anyone that was only for the Curry deal and that the Bulls already used that pick for Noah.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun